Paris, France

9:35 PM

A trial period, he said.

The very thought of it was ludicrous, and even more so when she saw the inside of his main safe house, an apartment in Paris. Wires and cables strewn everywhere… unopened boxes, apparently untouched for months, stacked to the ceiling… a few scraps of food scattered here and there, along with their unclean plates… She shook her head as she glanced around for a decent spot to sit herself, eventually finding it on the couch.

"Sorry about the mess. We don't exactly get a chance to clean up with our line of work."

She looked over to her right… and just about lost every inch of common sense she had left.

There he stood in the hallway, nothing on but a towel over his shoulders and a pair of black sweatpants, his feet in a pair of gray fuzzy house shoes. His build was that of a gymnast, wiry and agile, the defined muscle peeking through his coat. She could smell the soap he'd used from where she sat, and cursed whoever made it. Forget kissing him, she just wanted to cuddle and bury her muzzle in the crook of his neck, just to get more of that scent.

Carmelita Montoya Fox felt the blush rising to her cheeks at the very thought of doing such a shameless thing. Keep it together, girl. "Put something on, Cooper."

Sly smirked, brown eyes twinkling. "What happened to Ringtail? I think I like that better than my actual name."

Her eyes widened for a moment. He actually heard that, much less remembered it? "W-well that was just that one time! Don't expect me to call you that everywhere we go!" Oh great, that sounded like she liked calling him that!

The raccoon chuckled and made his way toward her. "I don't. But it'd be nice now and then to have my ears graced with the first ever nickname you gave me, even if it was in anger and frustration." He cleared his throat. "Just so you know, I'm not trying to make you hang up your badge or anything."

Carmelita folded her arms. "And I don't intend to. So we're at an impasse already, aren't we?"

"Not quite." He sat next to her, staring at the television for a few moments. "I'm gonna admit, I was surprised when you told me you'd actually agree to this. But now that we're here, I need to explain our… company philosophy, so to speak."

The vixen smirked. Maybe this would prove useful when she actually decided she didn't like this way of life. "I'm listening…"

Sly glanced over at her. "I'm serious, Carmelita. I'm sure you've noticed, but we're not your average pickpockets or burglars." He leaned forward just enough. "See, your average thug, thief, or grifter robs from the common people, from those who work hard for their money or don't have any at all. Good people, the people you're sworn to protect." He frowned. "Not only is that distasteful, but it's… easy."

One of Carmelita's brows rose. "Easy?"

Sly's smile returned. "To exploit a system already in place, one with predictable routines and loopholes, is easy. That's why we don't do it. Everyone else might, to earn a quick buck or get paid in the long run, but if anything else, you have to hide from those who protect that system, and that is unnecessary." He grinned. "Why do that… when you could give them something they could use?"

Her eyes widened. "Evidence."

Sly nodded. "Going after the big-time criminals, the mob, the syndicates, the armies of gangs, not only cleans up the streets… but it's a lot harder. See, they know how to manipulate the system that's in place to their advantage. So naturally, they would know how to keep their own earnings from vanishing. And that… makes things difficult, very much so." He leaned back onto the couch. "The only way I made it out of some of the jobs I've pulled were through my own wits, my two friends, and giving you the goods needed to make convictions."

She sighed. He'd been using Interpol for years like that, and she couldn't deny the effectiveness of his methods. "It also prevents you from having to deal with them later."

"You're getting the picture." He turned toward her again. "If there's anything my parents taught me before they were taken from me, it's this: Never hurt a cop. It's bad ethics and bad business. I took that to the next step… don't hurt anyone that's not part of a job, period. It's the first rule I have in place."

Carmelita looked back at him, no longer vindictive, her expression one of curiosity. "And are there others?"

Sly gave another nod. "The second is only to steal from those who have too much. Now I know what you're thinking, that's a hard line to draw. But I'm not after the super-rich. I'm just after the super-rich that don't want to give a shred of that money away, much less spend it."

She chuckled. "A regular Robin Hood."

"Only without the bow and arrows. Bentley's stuff is cooler than that anyway." He cleared his throat again. "The third rule is the most important one. Check the record." Sly lifted one of his fingers to emphasize. "If they have a rap sheet as long as one of your legs, they're a prime target to steal from. No doubt all their loot is ill-gotten, and thus they automatically lose all claims to it."

Carmelita placed a finger under her chin. "This also makes them excellent for turning in. High-profile targets do not come easy to Interpol agents." She smiled, not for the first time admiring how thorough he was. "It's a bit more convenient to steal from someone who is already unsavory."

"And noble, don't forget that."

She scoffed, but his statement didn't make her lose the smile. "Nothing is noble about you, Cooper." Despite how many times he'd saved her job, not to mention her life.

He sidled closer to her. "I dunno… I might surprise you."

"I'm still not sure we should be letting her in here, Sly. I mean, this is…"

He sighed and pressed in his ear piece. "Look, have I ever steered you wrong before? Besides, she wanted to have a trial run, so let's give her the full treatment." The elevator hit the bottom floor with a ping and he stepped out, Carmelita in tow. "Besides Bentley, if we want her in with us, we have to test her competency." Sly looked over his right shoulder. "No offense, but he needs to see what you can do."

"None taken." Carmelita rolled her neck, the jacket already off her shoulders. A pair of jeans hugged her hips, tucked into the black leather boots she often used to stomp many a criminal's backside. The strapless sports bra she preferred to wear, dark blue in color to match her hair, didn't leave much to the imagination. "If you stare at me for more than five seconds, I will put you in cuffs right now and the only trial you're having is one in a court room," she said with an accusatory finger pointed at him.

Sly turned back toward the front, eyes wide. "I'll be good, I promise!"

They headed down a hallway with lights along the floor and walls, then through another pair of doors. Carmelita had to shield her eyes for a moment as the lights just about blinded her. Then as her sight adjusted, she stared at a vast room filled with… absolutely nothing. The only things she could see were two or three consoles on her left side, just a few feet from the door. "Um… what's the deal with this place?"

Sly smiled. "This… is the Hazard Room."

The former Inspector chuckled. "There doesn't appear to be anything hazardous about this room."

Sly headed toward one of the consoles. "To the untrained eye, no. But to those that have true savvy…" Sly pressed a few buttons before pulling down a lever just to the right of the console. "…An empty room holds potential."

Carmelita's eyes widened as she watched the room change before her very eyes. Sections of the walls and floor shifted, locking into place to form a simulated obstacle course. Laser grids went online, spotlights shone overhead, and sentry turrets swiveled into position. Her eyes scanned to check for vulnerabilities as her mind began to calculate how to best get inside.

Sly nodded at the expression on her face. "I trust you know what you're gonna go through."

She nodded. "Get inside and get out in the fastest time possible."

"Ah, but there's a catch!"

Carmelita focused her attention upward toward the speakers, and noticed an observation deck, shielded with what looked like a bullet-resistant plate of glass. A turtle in a wheelchair waved out at her from the control room. "This isn't your standard Interpol assault course. You're a thief now, and so you're going to have to operate like one. Take a closer look…"

She directed her gaze back toward the maze… and found that it was less like a maze, and more like a compound, a fortress of sorts that she'd seen time after time when chasing Sly and his gang. No doubt there would be simulated guards inside, and those turrets, though probably firing non-lethal rounds, would be painful nonetheless.

Bentley's voice echoed again. "I trust you understand now what you have to do, but let's talk about it anyway. Yes, you have to complete the course. Yes, I'm timing you. But I'm also scoring you on how well you can enter, take what's inside, and exit… without raising an alarm. You can smash any robo-guard inside that's in your way and disable any of the systems that are exposed. Just don't leave traces of your presence, or I'm cutting the exercise and you're starting over. Three strikes…"

"…And I'm out." The vixen cracked her knuckles. "Well, this'll let me know if I'm cut out for this or not."

She felt a hand on her right shoulder, cautious but gentle. "I know you are." She turned to find Sly just beside her, that confident smile on his face. "You wouldn't be able to keep up with me half the time if you weren't. All you have to do is change your mindset a bit… this isn't kicking down a door or demanding someone's arrest. This is getting past their defenses to the bad guy, making them talk, tying them down, and leaving your calling card for anyone that happens to wander across 'em."

She rolled her eyes. "So you're turning me into a vigilante now."

He shrugged. "A vigilante is just someone lost in the scramble for their own gratification. They can be destroyed, or locked up. But…"

Carmelita chuckled. "I know where this is going… and I can't believe you used that quote to say it." She turned toward the simulated compound. "I suppose you want me to wear something ridiculous after I get done thrashing this test?"

Sly smirked. "You'll have to ask Bentley about that. He won't have you doing anything too silly." He tapped his chin with one of his pointer fingers. "Though I might have my input in there somewhere…"

She shook her head. "I'd rather you not, thanks." She rolled her shoulders and marched toward one of the walls. "Let's get this done, then!"

End of Part 1

Yeah guys, I did it. I made myself a Sly Cooper mini-fic. Now before you go complaining that this is not Endgame, this was a burst of inspiration from khfan494, based on his fic called Trial Period. It's an alternate interpretation of the ending to Honor Among Thieves, and it's quite interesting at that. Sure, it's two thousand words to where this one has about 1900 total without author's notes. But this one I think is a good launch point to a larger world that is totally within the realm of possibility.

And as you've seen above… this is the end of part 1.

Get ready for more.

This is your Slayer.